• home visiting;
  • nurse-client relationship;
  • Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations;
  • public health nursing

Abstract  Nurse-client relationships have been considered the foundation of successful home-visiting programs for vulnerable families (Gomby, Culross, & Behrman, 1999; McNaughton, 2000; Olds & Kitzman, 1990). Even though nurse-client relationships are important when working with multiproblem families, relationship theory has not been used to guide interventions in home visiting. Identification of a fitting theory could provide direction for tailoring interventions to families at a “dose” individualized to meet their needs.

This article reports a small study that tested the applicability of Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations in nursing (Peplau, 1952/1991) in the context of home visiting. Five prenatal clients and public health nurses participated in the study. Home visits were observed and audio-recorded beginning with the first prenatal home visit and ending in the early postpartum period. Audiotapes were transcribed and analyzed using a start list of codes (Miles & Huberman, 1994) based on Peplau's theory. Changes in the percentage of interaction assigned to the relationship phases along with a rating from the Relationship Form (Forchuk & Brown, 1989) were compared over time to determine whether relationships progressed as predicted by Peplau. Findings of this study supported Peplau's theory. Implications for nursing practice and research are discussed.